Trapped in a bad relationship?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Can't stop fighting?

Trapped in conflict?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hate your relationship but can’t leave?

Do you feel trapped in an unhappy situation? You know this relationship is not meeting your needs, but you’re not sure that anything else would be any better. One thing we find in marriage or relationship counseling is that people tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don’t discover what the problem is, it will keep happening.

Sometimes the problem is one partner or the other. If it’s you then you need to change. If at your partner, well, in that case, your options are limited. You can’t change someone else; only they can change themselves. What you can do is change the situation, change yourself, or learn how to accept the situation. You may decide that this situation needs to end.

Very often, however, the reason the relationship is unhappy lies in the space between two people, the way they relate to each other. There are certain things that people do, which keep the relationship an unhappy one. Therapists often see people who end one relationship, subsequently, start a new relationship, only to find they’re having the same problems in their new relationship.

Here are some things that may be happening in your current relationship which you need to learn how to handle if you are ever to have a happy relationship.

Avoiding conflict does not resolve the problem.

In some relationships, one or both partners are conflict avoidant. They don’t want to argue about things, and as a result, nothing ever changes. Conflict avoidance is an especially difficult problem when the conflict avoidant partner never tells their partner what they want.

Conflicts are part of life. A lack of conflict in a relationship does not mean it’s a perfect relationship. It’s not disagreements that damage relationships, but the way in which two people resolve those disagreements. Work on being able to express your disagreement with your partner in a way that they can hear. Work on finding win-win solutions rather than engaging in protracted disagreements over who is right and who’s in control.

What attracted you, may be pushing you apart.

Finding someone with the qualities you lack can be very attractive. Being with a person who is different from you can be exciting. But after you have been in the relationship a while things change, your needs change, and the qualities that brought you together may be the very things that are causing the problems.

That strong partner made you feel safe in the beginning but ends up being controlling. Your partner may have seemed like a lot of fun and helped you get out of your shell. But now you realize you have always been very responsible, and that fun person now looks irresponsible.

You don’t ask to have your needs met.

Don’t think that if your partner truly loved you, they would do things to make you happy. Very few people can read minds. Being deeply in love does not make you a mind reader. People who will not ask for what they want, create impediments to a good relationship.

You can’t win by beating up your teammate.

When aggressive, achievement-oriented people get together, they often end up competing with each other. When you are both hostile and want to win, you end up locked in a constant struggle for dominance and control.

When one partner assumes the one up position, there’s a high risk that the other partner will become resentful. The best solutions to partner disagreements are learning how to create win-win situations in which both people get their needs met. Compromising does not mean both people need to give up or lose something.

Playing the blame game and finger-pointing damages relationships.

Couples in unhappy relationships often begin to blame each other. When one person is criticized, their response is to criticize their partner for other issues. If you want to have a good relationship, learn to tackle one issue at a time. If you did something wrong admit it. Work on making it right. Pointing out all the things your partner has done wrong does not excuse your error, and mutual recriminations poison the relationship.

Needing to be right requires your partner to be wrong.

Insecure people need to always be right. They never want to hear that anything they have done was less than perfect. They often have lots of excuses as to why it’s not their fault. This “right fighting” can lead to endless episodes of arguments. Often there is no resolution. Many couples argue over things for which there is no correct answer. One person prefers one beverage while the other prefers a different beverage. The inability to allow your partner to have a different opinion than yours has resulted in couples locked in an eternal mortal combat.

Needing the last word keeps the argument going.

Once you’ve had your say, stop talking. Trying to always get in the last word doesn’t make you right. Keeping at it results in a relationship with only one topic, “who is right?” Make an effort to hear your partner out.

If you can’t hear what your partner is saying or feeling, there’s no communication.

Lots of couples show up for marriage counseling wanting to improve communication. What that often means is one of them wants the other to do something. Communication is not about being right or about arguing your partner into doing what you want. True communication in relationships furthers understanding. Make sure you’re listening to understand what your partner means. The missing part of communication is often a failure to understand what the partner is feeling.

If what you been doing or saying has been making your partner feel unloved or disrespected what’s needed is not to prove to them how much you love them or how correct you are. The best way to improve your relationship communication is to listen for the feelings behind the words that are being said. Once you get the feelings, the exact words are less important.

How many problems do you have in your relationship?

In distressed relationships, it is important to take a good look at the things you could do to improve your current relationship. Until you have learned good relationship skills, whether you stay or leave, any relationship you get into is likely to have the same problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Staying together for the children?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Family torn apart

Divorce.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Staying together for the kids isn’t enough.

In relationship counseling we run into a fair number of couples that have been together a long time, often 20 years or so, and now they find that they just can’t hold it together anymore. The most common cause of these issues is that they have spent the last twenty years “staying together for the kids” instead of staying together because they want to be together.

Most people who have worked with children will tell you that your children are not being fooled by this behavior. Kids know when mom and dad are distant and don’t like each other even when there is no outright fighting going on.

Growing up in a home where the parent’s wish they were not together is not much fun. If you are in that situation consider letting go of your resentments and working on the relationship. If you have to live there you might as well find a way to make the relationship better.

Relationships can self-destruct without children.

It is not unusual for relationships to go through a period of severe distress just about the time the oldest child is graduating from high school. Couples look at each other and ask “why did we stay together all these years?” If it was for the kids now what? Do you two still want to be together?

Relationships like cars or houses need maintenance. If you have just used your relationship to focus on the kids and have not kept the connection with your partner healthy then after the kids are gone there is not much left.

Some couples split up and try to start their lives over. Most of the time they end up in new relationships, now wanting a relationship for themselves instead of for the kids. Often both people get new partners. Who wants to be alone once the kids are gone?

Guess what? This complicates things. You are not a twenty-something anymore. Your new partner comes with an ex and some kids. So you, your ex, your new partner, your ex’s new partner, and the kids and all their partners keep crossing paths. You think you put your needs on hold for the kids before? Looks like it has just gotten worse. Do you get to enjoy life while you are still alive?

You can distract yourself from being where you are.

Lots of people stay in bad relationships and suffer. They think that the suffering they will go through by staying is less than what they and the kids would go through if they end this relationship.

Plenty of people go through these young-children-years by trying to stay busy and distract themselves from a relationship that is not meeting their needs.

Dads tend to work a lot. The old idea was that dad worked and paid the bills so that the rest of the family could have a good childhood. The result of this model was that dad got robbed of being a part of the family he was paying for and the rest of the family gets to resent dad for never being there.

Lots of expensive toys do not make up for a lack of loving relationships.

Moms also get caught up in this. Mom usually has two or more choices of ways to stay busy and avoid looking at what is lacking in her life. Mom can become a fanatical “soccer mom.” Spend all day and all night not just taking kids to places but also volunteering to help the activity take place. Mom can get so caught up in the school and the soccer league and the clubs that she does not have time to talk with her own kids let alone dad. Or mom can insist the kids need more things and expensive activates and she can go to work and stay busy that way.

What will mom do if the kids escape? Some chase the grandkids down and try to stay busy and others drop into a deep depression because their life has no meaning without someone else to make happy.

Staying and suffering and going and suffering should not be your only choices.

Smart couples develop other choices. If you are having difficulties you work on the issues. Couples counseling can help, so can making sure that you allocate some time and resources to maintain your relationship. Couples that enjoy being together and doing things together survive the kid’s exodus.

Think this over. You have a lot of time invested in your family. Are you waiting to do your time so you can escape after the kids leave or are you willing to work on this relationship so that the two of you will have reasons to be a couple after the kids have moved out and on and started their own families?

There is life after children. You can have a good relationship after your kids start their own lives if you two can get through the process without hurting each other so much there are just no good feelings left in the relationship account.

If your relationship feels like doing time, consider getting help from a professional relationship counselor.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.